I am ill today. Or so I told my clients when I canceled their appointments. I lie in bed and, trying to ignore the pain in my neck, stare out my bedroom window onto the street. The steady whoosh of car turbulence puts me in a trance.

I remember now. Monday morning I knew a break was coming. I knew the seams were coming apart. And then love and concern for another made me forget. I went to sleep with my guard down, forgetting that a storm was coming.

Tuesday morning. Jittery. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Five clients coming my way. Electrician with toxic male energy stealing my only break. Even so, I do not recall the awareness that I was already close to breaking. I soldier on the way I do on most work days. Shut out the world, myself included. Focus. That person. That task. And then the work day ends.

I eat without tasting the food. I flip through different shows on the television—all of them increasing the loneliness through their depictions of lives to which I cannot relate. They seem happy. They have spouses and talk about normal things and say funny things that aren’t actually that funny but that most must consider funny.

Walls closing in. Shaking. Denying it. Tears. Not steady tears. Unhinged. Reach out. Minutes feel like hours. Where are they?! Nobody loves me. Or do I not love anyone? How long will this last? It has been hours. Lie down. No, pace around. It has been weeks. Rage. I have been abandoned in this lonely hell. I tell myself I no longer need anyone. That nobody exists. They all left. Every last one of them. Or did I just leave?

I look out the bedroom window. I remember now. Last night…that was the break. I forgot it was coming. And now. Lost income. So much shame that the loneliness is worse. But not unhinged. Sad. Wondering how much damage I left behind. Like a drunkard waking up hungover wondering how bad he was the night before. The Hulk. Mr Hyde. Guilt. about my insanity. Wondering if it’s okay to spend so much time in bed. Wondering if it’s what I need or if it will leave regret. More regret, that is.

Sometimes when I’m in an emotionally self-destructive place I tell myself that I am to blame for my pain or my loneliness. “You are lonely because you are [insert cruel word or phrase]!” But other times the pain is simply there. I feed myself, exercise, clean up and do the things that I sometimes neglect when I’m depressed. But I’m still depressed. Is this depression? Maybe not. It’s a deep well of sadness. It’s a strong physical pain in my chest. It’s the feeling of some invisible hand trying to pull me down to the ground. I’m neither fighting it nor giving into it. It’s simply there.

I sit in the corner and look out over my living room. It looks nice. It’s the nicest home I have created. But what I notice most is that it’s empty. And I begin to cry (again). To sob. Just like I did on my walk. Just like I did when I woke up. I’m lucky to have a nice house but for some reason I haven’t allowed it to feel like home.

As pathetic as this sounds (I’m aware that what I’m about to say is close to being a Smiths’ lyric and for some reason right now I think of all the people who teased me for liking the Smiths in high school) I ache to physically embrace and be embraced. A tight embrace. I want to cry in someone’s arms and lean my head on their shoulder. I want that physical communication that is so much more basic and primal than words. But it’s not a possibility. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not until….well, nobody knows.

Thursday I’m getting a haircut. Someone will wash my hair. The momentary sigh of relief I get at imagining this is interrupted by picturing the person who will wash it. It is not someone I dislike but neither is it someone I like. Not a friend or lover but not a stranger. It’s part of a business exchange. It doesn’t mean it won’t feel good. It’ll be a minute of a nice thing. But it’s not heart-filling.

And this is it. This is why I ache. Sure, my inability to tolerate it is related to my trauma. Yes, the pain is enhanced greatly by it. But I’m also just a human being with or without the trauma. And now I have to gather my inner resources, put ice packs under my eyes (so that my clients won’t see that I’ve been crying for two days) and get ready to help people who are actually more high functioning than I am (with one notable exception).

Fearful of the heat that is to come, I create a dark den by shutting every window and drawing every blind. I am simultaneously struck by sadness and relief. By blocking out the world I have made my isolation official. Yet the weight that burdens me is now more evenly distributed between my heart and my surroundings.

With a sigh I place two fans on either side of my couch and walk into the kitchen to serve myself a cup of coffee. I bring the coffee back to the couch, sit down and let a few tears drop from my eyes. I am sleepy. I lack desire. I want only for this nameless burden to find its way out of me.

I do not know what it is to live, only that I find it difficult to do within the constraints that my survival requires. I must first survive in order to live but surviving sucks the life from me. Suddenly I begin to fantasize. I imagine a year in which I am able to survive despite cutting my work hours by half. There my fantasy becomes cloudy but there is a vague sense that the tension in my spine would lessen, that the weight on my heart would decrease, and that I could start to breath. And from that breath would emerge life. And this life….yes….this life would allow me the time to feel what I feel. It would provide enough structure to ground me and help me feel useful and enough freedom to help me feel, dream, and connect.

I slip out of the fantasy and find myself back on the couch. My coffee is now lukewarm. Reality. Here in reality coffee gets cold. Bills must be paid. I must pay for this dark den alone. Where is the money for which I have worked? Rage.

Here in reality I must make peace with the limitations. Perhaps the act of writing this is an example of creating peace and acceptance. And with that thought I sink into a quiet melancholy and, in another example of living within the restrictions of my life, pick up a book to read.

This has been a busy and stressful week. And it’s not over: I still have four appointments today and one tomorrow. There’s nothing interesting about that to me. It’s such a boring thing to say that I’m tempted to resort to a tautological and platitudinous pet peeve: it is what it is.

The one thing that is interesting about this week is the realization that even when my mental health issues are not entering the picture (no real depressions; no “abandonment triggers”; only one night of poor sleep) life is still challenging. I feel as though my life has consisted of eating, sleeping, walking, checking in on my aunt and working. What little bandwidth remains is used to pack a few things and rest. It’s always just the next task at hand.

I don’t give myself enough credit. It’s like my depressive personality gets in the way of recognizing the fact that I’m a really hard worker. I too often diminish myself by comparing myself to, for example, a manual laborer that has to work 14 hour days to keep their family fed. It is important to stay humble and see my blessings. So far I have not lost my employment. So far I have been able to financially survive the pandemic. But that shouldn’t be mutually exclusive with appreciating myself. I do what some others in my field cannot in order to pay for rent, medical insurance and food. I have love and support and what I have is what I work for. There is a dignity in that. A dignity that I forget at times. I forget that I’m really strong tough and that I come from hardworking ancestral roots. And I do so because I’m also a very sensitive and fragile person and, for some reason, I choose to define myself exclusively by this.

I don’t want to forget this. I’m strong. Resilient. Tough. AND, I’m fragile and extremely sensitive. I don’t want to forget that I’m doing the best I can and that weeks like this are just part of surviving and that I’m not alone in this (certainly not alone in a corporate capitalist economy that is created to benefit only a very small percentage of its citizens).

Okay. Four more. I feel like crawling into bed and avoiding, but I’ve I got this. I’ve gotten through far more. It’s just another day.


Trapped and alone in the silent darkness. Out of sync with the world. Neither dead nor alive. Insomnia leaves you in a liminal place both the night of and the day after. Unable to feel or act. The heavy weight of my head on my useless tired body. Another sick day. More lost wages. Unable to work. Unable to connect. To love. Do I cancel my plans again? Will I even be able to keep my eyes open?

It hurts to write this. To stare at the screen and move my listless fingers. If only I could look forward to sleep tonight. For the living sleepiness is information; it is the body telling them that it is time to sleep. That they will sleep. For the insomniac this information is irrelevant. It is like feeling hunger where there is very little possibility of a meal.

Nothing makes me more suicidal than two or more more nights of insomnia in a row. It can make nihilists out of monks and priests; can turn the kindest people into sadists. All I want right now is to be able to feel…anything. Desire. Sadness. Loneliness. I want to find my pulse. To feel human. Must I grapple with this as well?!

The idea of caffeine sounds so appealing. Perhaps it would give me a temporary jolt. A rush. A momentary feeling of being alive. I understand the temptation to abuse drugs right now. You chase a feeling right now regardless of the consequences. Caffeine and sugar straight into my bloodstream. Mmmm. But I know this is only a fantasy. I would only feel wired and tired which is simply a more frustrating version of what I feel now.

But what about drugs for sleep? Oh my dear reader! If only you know the dozens of drug cocktails I have been put on since the age of 19! Drugs that would put a horse to sleep! Nightly. Regardless of the long term impact on my liver, heart or kidneys. Drugs every night. Anti-depressants for sleep. Hypnotics. Benzos. I have even gone the “natural” route: CBD, Melatonin, Cannabis…nothing. If I keep taking my meds it is only because they sometimes work. And sleeping sometimes is better than never sleeping.

In some ways the most authentic version of me is the one who is in his role as a therapist. It is there that I can love wholly and without fear. I do not worry about being abandoned or disliked by clients. I am very rarely triggered by them. It is the one place in the world where my nerves aren’t exposed; where my skin is intact. I can take in the appreciation I get from clients while at the same time not letting it go to my head. Though I am experienced, I don’t see myself as a very polished therapist. My strength is my presence. Without my fears controlling me I don’t rely on my primitive coping mechanisms and, therefore, my real self shines through.

It’s funny, when I imagine myself in that role I think of myself as lovable. Hell, I even think I’m handsome. I am more confident and joyful. And even when I’m shit…I beat myself up far less about having a shitty session than I do about having a shitty date or hangout.

Of course it makes sense–I was bred to be a caretaker. The boundaries inherent to the work create the safety, not only for the clients, but for me. This protection lets me be more….me. I can love and let go. I can love and not risk anything. I don’t have to ask for anything (other than payment) and whatever I self-disclose is more related to how they impact me rather than about my own pain and suffering and loneliness. Since I don’t have to ask for anything I never feel afraid. I never have to worry that I’m “too much” or wonder if I’m a burden. I don’t have to watch the helplessness in anyone’s eyes as they watch me sink into an abyss.

And yet this role…it wears me out. It can’t directly meet my needs (it would be problematic if it did). But I get a taste…a taste of what a confident and less fearful me looks like. Of what it feels like to be generally okay with myself. Maybe that’s why I return to the work even though I am tired of it. Maybe it’s the place where I suffer the least (while I’m in it) even if I suffer quite a bit because of it.

I was once in a therapy group that was led by this older man who had quite a commanding presence (a little too commanding for my taste but that is another story). He was fairly renowned in town and charged an arm and a leg. In his chair he looked larger than life. One day, I ran across him on the street. He was so small and fragile. Tiny. And when we talked to one another I realized that he almost seemed shy and childlike. That describes how I feel. When I’m in the chair I feel okay with myself. When I’m in my day-to-day life it hurts just to breath and I’m so fucking afraid of so fucking much.

I tell myself that I work a lot to survive financially, and it’s not untrue. It’s a logistical and mathematical fact. But I realize now that in addition to this, at some unconscious level, I need this work in order to get a break from the suffering version of myself. And there is the paradox of it: the very thing that can drain me so badly is also the thing that so often relieves my suffering.

Bah. I’m tired. I’m crying. I don’t want to edit. Fuck it.

Glory Holes

Reading the news this morning, I could begin to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. The US is becoming a police state; those things that people accused “liberals’ of being alarmist about are actually happening: people being beaten for simply speaking up. Just as I was ready to stop reading I came across a headline: “Canadian CDC Recommends Glory Holes For Sex Amid COVID-19”.

Despite the lack of relevance sex articles have to my–unintentionally–celibate life, the anthropologist in me was as curious as he could possibly be. “The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control advises the public to use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes) that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact”. Hmmm…glory holes, eh? I imagine the impact this could have on our world. Or, perhaps more importantly, on my imaginary sex life.

I begin by asking the landlord if he can send our maintenance guy (Paul) to install a glory hole in my bedroom door. Why the bedroom door? Well, I thought about the bathroom door but remembered how much I value poo privacy. And the front door…well that’s kind of out of the question, isn’t it?

Paul comes in to make said glory hole. Watching him, I can see quite clearly that this isn’t his first rodeo but, in the interest of good taste, I resist the temptation to ask. Then, once the glory hole is complete, Paul leaves with a very inspiring, “Good luck with that, buddy”. Good luck, indeed. I stand there with a sense of satisfaction. Well, I’m ahead of the curve on this one, aren’t I? Smugness. Smugness interrupted with a concern, “How do we know if the size is right?!” “Measure twice and cut once”. That’s how the saying goes. You didn’t even measure once, Paul!

Goddamit. Is it too big? Too small? (Here my readers might be worried that penis jokes are coming. Rest assured, I am too BIG of a man to make juvenile PENIS jokes). I gingerly approach and breath a sigh of relief. Well done, Paul! It works. It’s like your telepathic about penises! I can stand here with my penis sticking through this very well made (and thankfully, very well sanded) glory hole. But wait…it’s a little too high. I have a real calf strain going on here. The saying is an understatement–apparently one need measure a couple of things twice before cutting something once (four measures for one cut) for a cozy glory hole.

Trifling matters! I step back. Big smile. Rubbing my hands together. Tapping my foot. Beginning to hum a little melody. Well, on with my day, I suppose. But no….wait!!! Hold your horses! This has implications for my dating profile!

I being to wonder how to communicate this. “Glory hole friendly!”? “Have own glory hole!”? “I practice safe (glory hole) sex!”? The exclamation points are vital for communicating my passion and vast knowledge of glory holes. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a glory hole virgin (or wait…I should probably rethink that). Before I can even edit my own profile I realize I’m not so ahead of the curve as I thought. I see on the other profiles: “Into guys who can build their own glory holes” (goddamit! your needs for boyfriends who are handymen even leak into this glory hole era!); “glory hole empowered”; “not into faces, anyway”. Okay, I got this. I’m ready….

It is then that my fantasy comes to a sudden and rather disillusioning end. Weeks have passed. Despite the trending glory hole mentions on the dating profiles, I get pinged as infrequently as before the Brave New Glory Hole World. Occasionally, I pass by my glory hole with that sad Charlie Brown/Snoopy music playing in the back of my head. I curse the Canadian CDC and then quickly take my curses back when I remember that they have universal health care.

I awaken from my daydream, sad but grateful to have gotten a break from the devastating world news that I had been embroiled in just before. Glory hole or not, thank you for your glorious tip, dear Canada. Thank you, indeed.

The Last of Us 2 – An Overview

The Last of Us 2 is the extremely rare AAA (big budget) game that insists on the integrity of its artistic vision by refusing to pander to the entertainment preferences of a wider audience. Indeed, it is not meant to entertain so much as it is designed to place one within the hearts and minds of characters who carry immense grief and trauma. This direct involvement is the gift that video games, more than any other artistic medium, can offer. In TLOU2 it means making one complicit in the choices and, often brutal, actions that the characters’ unresolved traumas create.

Trauma is painful. It keeps one stuck in the past. If left unresolved, it impacts one’s sense of self by preventing new experiences from being integrated and, thus, new narratives from being written. If I am stuck in the past then how can I possibly imagine a future? This is where we find ourselves in TLOU2. That it is not fun is vital to the integrity of a game about loss and trauma (and eventually redemption). The love, pain, grief and hatred of these characters make for an unspeakably powerful experience, but certainly not a comfortable one.

TLOU2 asks a lot of us. Perhaps more than any game ever has. The meaning and edification of the experience can only be accessed through an abundance of empathy and nuance. The courage of the artistic vision is that, in essence, it puts all of its narrative eggs into one basket: EMPATHY. Can we empathize with the other and see the flaws in ourselves? Are we willing to walk in the shoes of the other? Become the other? Love the other? Can this be the path to redemption? A way through trauma and grief? It is in these questions that we find, not only what is challenging about the game, but the spiritual core of it. It is also the reason the game seems to spark so much controversy and hatred.

It appears that many were invested in the commodification of the game; they wanted a feel-good experience where they could be the heroes of the narrative. Instead they were pulled into a painful and brutal world where the violence is not fun but rather a deeply disturbing symptom of unresolved trauma. They were asked to to empathize with the antagonist; to play as the antagonist, and therefore, forced to experience the world from another point of view. In short, the game threatened to evaporate the fragile illusions on which their false comfort rests.

There is no hero in the universe of the TLOU2. There are just people. People in pain. People who have lost their way. People who are doing their best. People struggling with grief; painfully struggling to create meaning after loss. People flailing in the face of their trauma. There are no heroes or villains because seeing the world through both points of view destroys those concepts. But to acknowledge that is to acknowledge that there are no heroes or villains in our own lives and that the constructs we hold which rest on this are feeble, limiting and even dangerous.

There are a great many intelligent critiques of the game. Critiques about pacing and timing and how the narrative could have been better. I love these. I can feel that there is no hatred within them; that there is no resistance to empathy. They read and sound like the points of view of people who care; whether it be about the game or gaming in general. These voices are helpful to me because they challenge me.

But in the spirit of TLOU2…in the interest of staying true to its spiritual core, I say this to those who are simply angry: I get it. I miss Joel too. I miss his unflappable love for Ellie. I love Ellie and it hurt to watch her lose her way. Sometimes things are too painful to experience. Sometimes when I’m hurting I avoid watching certain films or books because I feel too fragile. Sometimes when we love someone we can feel angry at them for falling; it’s our helplessness that makes us angry. You felt helpless. You wanted something better for Ellie and Joel. I get it. I hope you can acknowledge the fragility that lies beneath your anger. But if you don’t…it’s okay. Sometimes I just feel angry too.

It can be easy to doubt yourself when you wrestle with frequent emotional dysregulation. The intensity of the feelings can leak into your narrative and your narrative, in turn, can add intensity to the feelings. I’m pretty self-aware and high functioning most of the time. So for example, I can feel abandoned but know that I have not been abandoned. The insight is what saves me from disaster most of the time. However, despite the awareness there are times when I can doubt my reality.

Lately I have felt under attack in the world. More specifically, I feel that I have been attacked by other men using forced closeness and coughing assaults as weapons. I am aware that people who struggle with BPD can experience paranoia and that we have a tendency to see the world as a hostile place. But I’m not crazy. And when I’m being crazy all it takes is a calm moment to realize that I was being crazy. That I know to be true. So when I look back at some of the things that have happened in the past month, I know that I’m not insane. That I have survived two incidents that were both scary. Well…now three.

I have started taking my walks around my dad’s neighborhood. It’s quieter there and you get the ocean breeze hitting you. There are fewer pedestrians and I have looped around the block for a total of 5 miles without so much as seeing another person walking by. I felt a sense of safety. I thought I had found a cozy safe place for my exercise. That dream was short lived.

I was on my seventh lap around the block. About fifty yards to my right and across the street there was a man yelling some information to whoever lived at the residence there. I didn’t think anything of it. Suddenly I look up and realized that this man (probably late 30’s, stocky, buff, baseball cap) has chosen to run across to my side of the street and run AT ME. My initial thought was that maybe he was looking down at his feet and just being careless. None of us are perfect, after all. But then I see that he clocked me and is still coming up close. I back off to the middle of the street and he laughs and says “How you doin’ buddy?” I ignore him. I’m livid. Why does this keep happening to me? I feel a sense of rage. I calm myself down. It’s easier to calm down when I’m on a walk. I focus on my breathing and I let it all go. So much so that by another half block I’m back to thinking about how I want to do 11 loops in order to make sure I get close to five miles. Success.

On my last loop around the block I’m walking down the hill when I hear someone yell out at me, “Hey buddy–will you help me unload this?” I look up. It’s the redneck guy who ran at me at the top of his driveway trying to unload a large lawnmower. He’s grinning at me.

“No, I won’t” I say while continuing to walk.


“Yup. Not during COVID.”

“You’re seriously worried about that stuff?!”

I’m still walking here by the way, folks. Which means he’s screaming louder and louder to try and be heard.


“Fuck you then, bro!”

“Good luck with your lawnmower, buddy!” (If it isn’t clear, I said this sarcastically.)

I’m proud of how I handled myself. Direct. Assertive. Sarcastic, yes, but I think given the context sarcasm was warranted. Funnily enough I felt strangely calm WHILE it was happening. No hesitations. No confusion. No pauses. Immediate and firm responses.

Then a minute passes and I start to feel the rage creep in. It is no longer an exception for me to be tested, threatened or attacked when I leave the house. It is becoming a 50/50 proposition. This country is so divided right now that even the desire to not get infected represents a political position to some. Redneck guy was testing me. He was testing to see if I’m like him or not. He was testing me to see if he could intimidate me and obtain alpha status (as though that were a status that I was even vying for!).

Then just as I was feeling pity for myself I realized that this is nothing compared to what women and people of color have experienced. Leaving the house could lead to police harassment and brutality. Walking down an ally-way could lead to a sexual assault. The only reason I feel fear right now is that closeness, coughs and fights could lead to infection and, therefore, everyone is a potential weapon. Though I have always struggled to see the world as a safe place at an emotional level, I have never felt particularly scared to walk down a dark street at night. So for the first time in my life, I am afraid to walk down the street….at any time. And it shows how privileged I have been in that way for all of my life.

So I have to come to a place of acceptance: it is not in my head that the world is really divided right now; it is not in my head that hyper-masculine males have begun to try to target and test me (and others, I’m sure); and, therefore, I have to accept that I must remain vigilant when in public places and be ready to defend myself. I do not need to feel sorry for myself about this because others have suffered this for far longer and far more intensely than I have. It is no fun but it is the new reality.

It’s going to be one of those days where I know I don’t have it in me to do much and my goals are very basic. Today will be a success if I manage to get through all of my work and avoid being cruel to myself about….everything and anything.

I’m constantly exhausted because I’m so easily triggered into fight-flight-freeze by people and things in the environment. The gentlest breeze can feel like a gale of wind to me. And even when the experience is relatively minor in terms of my dysregulation, the price I pay is exhaustion. It takes a toll to “come up” and then “bring yourself back down”.

I overslept this morning by ninety minutes and didn’t make it to the grocery store. I still have time to exercise but I know I’m not going to. Today I will be a shut-in. And already my cruel inner-critic is testing me by saying, “Stop being a wimp. Stop being a sensitive little boy! Just get outside and exercise. Boo-hoo!” Fuck off, asshole. So what if I’m writing instead of exercising? Writing is soulful and good. Go to hell.

I love bed. It’s the one place where my very large and heavy body feels held in its entirety. Where every touch is soft and silky and smooth. I find it increasingly difficult to get out of it during COVID. Even the anxiety of knowing how I’m negatively impacting my day by hitting the snooze button nine times cannot override the allure of sleeping a bit more. My favorite moment of being in bed is just after hitting the snooze button: I reposition myself into a comfortable position, feel the the soft and warm comforter and sheets against my skin, and gently drift away. That brief moment represents the height of my sensual existence. I long for it even as I describe it. Bed is a sweet mommy. A kind attuned lover. A safe container.

I dreamt about my most recent ex-gf last night. I can’t remember much of it. I remember her being on my couch and feeling trapped by her company. I was full of that feeling of wishing to run away. Restraining the chaos within myself so that she wouldn’t have to see how “ugly” I am. Holding on to something so desperately even though my real self wanted nothing to do with it. It’s pretty on-the-nose from what I recall of the relationship. Or that is, the dream works even at the literal level. I hid for most of the relationship. Or I tried to, anyway. And though my decision to hide is nobody’s fault but my own, there was a wisdom to it (the mistake was not that I necessarily needed to show her who I was, but to trust my instinct that she wasn’t the person with whom to share it with and gracefully walk away).

It will likely come as no surprise when I say that restraining most of my feelings most of the time led to her being shocked when they finally did burst through. The irony is that these two or three “bursts” were so fucking small by the standards of my past, but to her they were confounding and irritating. And I understand that.

I remember being with her at a party around the fourth of July. We were at the sort of house that neither I nor anyone I know could ever afford. A house with a wine cellar that is bigger than my whole apartment. A house with a full view of the ocean and the mountains. There were fine wines and cheese and foods with names I didn’t know. White people. Lost of white people. I remember seeing the housemaid (who was working to bring out the food and clean dishes and such during the party) and wanting so badly to be next to her the whole time. She didn’t strike me as safe just because she was Latina, she struck me as safe because I knew neither of us (nor our families) grew up in these sorts of surroundings, having these sorts of conversations.

I tried, I really did try. I remember looking at myself in the mirror before my gf came over and saying, “There is meaning in giving her this gift–in showing up and being gracious. It will make her happy. All you have to do is keep it together for a few hours. You got this.” So when I arrived, I stood with her as she initiated conversations with others. I remember she and this couple talking about wine (my ex was always networking, even when we went out to dinner together–hustling to make ends meet) and their trips to Tuscany and other places I have never been. The guy in the couple asked me if I had been. I smiled and said with a warm tone of voice that I hadn’t but that it sounded lovely. “So you must know your wines too if you’re dating this one,” he said, keeping the conversation going. I told him I didn’t really know much about wine but that I was trying to learn a bit (which was almost true). Our conversation went quiet and I froze. I didn’t know what to say. “I’m going to go see where my wife went,” he said. Whew. But wait…oh yeah, Jessica went off with his wife to the deck. I look right and left. With whom can I speak? Okay…you got this. It’s not a big deal. You know how much she likes her independence. Don’t crowd her. Let’s prove to her that we can smoothly navigate these worlds like an adult. Just try to look open and friendly and think of having open body language. I stood there for what seemed like thirty minutes but was probably three. I spotted a comfy spot on the couch and I went to it.

Okay, you’re not the best conversationalist at these things. It’s okay. You already knew that. Maybe if you can just sit quietly on the couch here it’s a good thing. It’s giving her space to network and schmooze and I’m still here if she needs me. Maybe I’m being a good enough boyfriend to just be here and not complain. People came and went to that area of the couch. I tried to enter a few conversations but could see that I wasn’t welcome to join.

I hadn’t heard from or seen Jessica in about 80 minutes (if that sounds specific it’s because I remember looking at my watch countless times and trying to measure how long a “good boyfriend” needs to hang in there to prove his goodness). She found me in time for the fireworks. We went out on the deck and everyone began to sing one of those patriotic songs. I’m not joking here, folks. First one person started singing and then everyone joined in. I think it was, “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…” I remember feeling my heart sink into my stomach. Okay, but Jessica and I can connect on this. We’ve both talked about our issues with patriotism; particularly as it’s expressed in this country. On this we are connected. Surely here I can give her a sarcastic smirk and she’ll know what I’m trying to say. Some lightness. A moment of connection. No. I get a furrowed brow and a tiny head shake–the don’t-embarrass-me look. Nobody could see us and my expression was but a few seconds long and wordless. It wasn’t about this moment–she was already embarrassed and upset by me. It wasn’t about the look. It was about all of it. My inability to navigate these situations that she both enjoys and needs.

She wants to live in these worlds, to work her way into owning a house like this despite the fact that she can’t afford her $1200 rent. But I don’t judge her for this. She grew up in real poverty. And her way of coping has been to distance herself from it; to find a way to run in these upper crust worlds through her work (sommelier and wine seller). To feel anger toward her father for not being a more aggressive go-getter when it comes to income. We all cope in our own ways with our shit. I’m not cross with her for finding a way to deal that works for her. Hell, it’s probably even a less primitive way of dealing with shit than I can claim. But back to the story…

In that one look every feeling that I had tried to fight off for those two hours flooded me. That one facial expression from her was all it took for the restrained feelings to come bursting forth. All I needed was one kind and warm look or gesture to set me back on path. Instead I got disapproval. I waited a few minutes and said, “I can’t hold it–I need to pee”. I didn’t. I just needed to get away and see if I could get myself to calm down so that she wouldn’t see that I was reaching my limit; that my nervous system was going haywire.

I asked the maid where the restroom was. She pointed down the hall with what, I perceived in the moment, an annoyed face. Finally in the bathroom I sat on the toilet for a few minutes and tried to change my self-talk. Or, if I’m honest, I tried to give myself a pep talk. “It’s probably just another hour. You can do anything for an hour. What’s an hour in the scheme of your life? What’s an hour in terms of geological time?” The idea of geological time brought with it a vision of dinosaurs in my head. It soothed me just enough to try again; to get out of the bathroom.

I keep saying that I did my best. I really did. I tried to partake in the conversations she was in. Tried to be polite and gracious. Tried not to be an embarrassment. I was losing steam. It takes more energy than you can imagine to hold everything together when you just want to let it all go. Just then live music began being played inside the house. I remember this being the final straw. The sheer volume of the music set my body on fire. It was that crucial moment where the world feels like a predator and I am its prey. Even in this state I reasoned that if I told Jessica that I was feeling ill and walked home (we were but a mile from my apartment) that everything would still be okay. She insisted on coming with me. I told her it was okay for her to stay (and I really meant it, if not preferred it) but she left. Once in the car she said what I knew all along, “I don’t understand you. That was rude. It was embarrassing.” The floodgates opened up. We had been together for ten months at this point but she had never seen what it really looked like for me to sob. The tears seemed to make her angrier. I remember feeling like a really bad boy. Like….a hopeless wretch that doesn’t belong in the world. Like the sort of person who needs to stay shut-in and avoid people. I didn’t say any of that.

When we arrived at the apartment she insisted on coming in. I could see that she was tired. Tired of the relationship. Tired of me. Tired of not understanding me. I didn’t help her much. It’s like I said before, I spent so much of that relationship hiding. And it was easy to hide in that relationship. An ambitious woman who is always working and making plans is less likely to notice or wonder how I’m doing and where I am. She knew I was unhappy–she wasn’t blind. I just don’t think she knew the extent of how excruciating the relationship was for me. Hell, how excruciating my entire life had been.

“I don’t understand. What gets into you?”

“I just get….scared. Anxious.”

I could tell she was trying. Sort of. I mean, she was trying to a point but not actually accessing empathy. She needed something concrete and tangible. I wish I could tell her that I had been hiding a horrible bladder infection and that there was this real medical reason that made me had to rush home. She would have understood that.

“I need a partner who I can take with me to these sorts of things. Maybe I have to accept that you can’t do that with me.”

She was right. I would never be able to do that with her. And even if I got to place in my life where I was better at being around groups of people, a place in my life where I was better at managing my strong emotions, I’d probably not want to use that super power (hey, it feels like a super power to me!) on wine parties with rich white folks. I’d…go to more museums. The Farmer’s Market. I’d take a road trip to Wyoming and go to their Natural History Museum. More dinosaurs. I’d tolerate crowds at restaurants that I like and not deprive myself of the experience just because the place is full. I’d sit in cafes more frequently. The bottom line is that I would simply enjoy leaving my house without so much fear. And yet, I felt so hurt. I felt like I failed someone again. Like they were just putting up with me.

I began to cry again and she got angry. I wish people understood that sometimes when the tears start rolling for me it’s not me trying to be a victim. It’s not me trying to invalidate their anger or experience. They come involuntarily. It’s like getting annoyed at someone for bleeding. I want, more than anyone else could possibly want, to be able to take life in stride. To hold onto my adult self more consistently. Sometimes I feel like a victim, but I don’t believe I’m a victim. At least, not most of the time. And not with the people I love. She had every right to be disappointed. She was looking for something else. For someone else. She too was holding onto something that wasn’t working even if it was for completely different reasons. But then it came…

“It’s like you’re a little kid sometimes.”

“Please leave,” I said.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”

“You did. And it’s okay. It’s true. But please leave. I need space.”

“I don’t want to. Let’s fix this.”

“We can fix it tomorrow. Or the next day. Please leave.”

I meant it. Sometimes I unconsciously test people. It’s not planned or sociopathic. It’s just…a way of seeing if people will love my ugly sides (fuck off, inner critic–they’re not ugly, they’re just hurt!). This was not one of those times. I wasn’t testing her. I needed to sob. I needed to go into my bedroom and sob. Alone.

It makes sense that I hid my struggles from her most of the time. Or put another way, my gut told me all along that she wouldn’t be able to embrace the beautiful chaotic mess that I am. This doesn’t make her bad. It just makes her the wrong person for me. And yet if I had been able to tell her and show her from the start, we wouldn’t have spent the next 11 months forcing something that wasn’t meant to be.

Two weeks later, I told her that I didn’t want to be with her anymore. I felt calm. It was the truth. Again, not a test–the truth. I had never done this before. I mean, I had never broken up with someone before. It felt strangely liberating. Authentic. She asked me to stay for dinner so that we could have a proper goodbye. I agreed to do so.

Ironically, we had the nicest night I could remember having with her. We expressed the things we appreciated about the other. She told me things that shocked me. Things I never knew she thought or felt. Good things. She told me she’d never dated someone with so little ego. She told me I taught her that not all men are bad. She told me she’d never met someone with so much love in them and that it was healing to her if scary. She reminded me I was the first boyfriend she had ever had and that it was the longest she’d ever been with someone. She apologized for the lack of chemistry and attraction while also thanking me for showing her that she didn’t have to give her body away to someone if she didn’t want to. It’s cruelly and ironically funny that sometimes people wait to share positive things once something is over. I was grateful. I was happy and sad all at once. I drove home hoping Eric was still awake. He was. And I told him. And he was loving because he is loving. Because he loves me. And why would such a wonderful person love me if I wasn’t wonderful too?

I’m not sure why I chose to share that story. Probably just because I started talking about the dream. And probably because I’m trying to (largely owing to a book I’m reading) make peace with myself; to simultaneously embrace that I have this dysregulation disorder (sometimes called BPD) while knowing that it’s on me to heal. Having a disorder but being far more than that disorder. And maybe the book is inspiring me to share my struggles without shame or self-hatred. And, just as importantly, without hate for anyone else.

So here I am. No exercise. Very little food in my fridge. Five clients on their way. Face covered in snot and tears. But I persevere. I do what I need to do most of the time. I’m not sure how I do it. I mean, sometimes I see myself as this person who simply can’t function. Who can’t deal with life and the world. And yet….I have no debt. I don’t make a lot of money but I make more than I ever thought I would (that it barely allows me to survive says something more about the world I’m in than about any failing of mine). I have friends who love me. And my family loves me too (even if imperfectly). Maybe it’s okay that I didn’t exercise today. That I have to stick to turkey and brown rice for another day. It’s just a day. What’s that in geological time? Dinosaurs! Yes!